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Date of Issue: March 19, 2010

Cooler weather, water pushes snook into canals

Fishers find keeper grouper abundant in bays

Nikolai Gudilin, center with rod, of Volokolamsk, about 100 kilometers from Moscow, came a long way to the Rod & Reel Pier to fish. He hooked, fought (and fought and fought) and finally landed this large stingray to applause and cheers from the large crowd that had gathered. Gudilin spoke no English, but he was accompanied by a group of friends, Russian natives from Chicago who found Anna Maria Island on the Web.
Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Sheepshead have invaded the bays, the first sign of the coming of winter fishing.

But the hot fish to target are grouper — gags and reds — that have been collecting over ledges and rock piles in the bays. Grouper love a big, live bait, such as a pinfish, grunt or shiner, on a circle hook.

Also, pompano are skipping and biting in good numbers on deep-water cuts adjacent to passes.

Kingfish is a good nearshore option if weather permits. Capt. Ray Markham thinks we may have good kingfish action until the first of the year.

Snook season closes on Dec. 1, and good numbers have been reported to be scattered on the flats and congregating around the mouths of canals.

But until anglers have to turn on the heaters at home, the wintertime fishing pattern is still one sustained coldfront away.

Kyle Dodrill from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge south fishing pier said there has been tons of Spanish mackerel, a lot of sheepshead, pompano in the shallows and a few kingfish early in the morning. The grouper bite has been hot as well. Dodrill said they saw occasional schools of 20-30-pound jack crevalle. Once in awhile, he said some bull redfish, over 40 inches, have milled through.

Derek Olson from the Rod & Reel Pier reported a lot of Spanish mackerel, some redfish, undersized snook, a couple mangrove snapper, and some nice-size flounder. Olson said he’s seen flounder to almost 17 inches.

Rocky Corby from Anna  Maria City Pier said anglers there are catching Spanish mackerel, flounder, sheepshead and a couple of snook. He said there’s quite a bit of medium-size bait around the pier.

Danny Stasny from Island Discount Tackle at Catchers Marina said he had been landing some big snook on the flats in Palma Sola Bay. He said one snook measured 35 inches and was caught with a finger mullet. He said top-water action has been good in the bay as well. Also, he reported there have been a bunch of small redfish running through Perico Bayou.

Capt. Mark Howard of Sumotime Charters said he’s still been able to get shiners to target snook and redfish. He’s been getting his bait off the Anna Maria City Pier. “I’ll get out there early and look for diving birds in the morning,” he said. When the weather was too rough, he went around Key Royale for bait.

“The fall patterns is still in effect,” Howard said, “but I did notice this week the first big schools of sheepshead showed up inside, a precursor to wintertime.” Howard said he saw a deep trough on the flats with 20 sheepies. Howard also is seeing a lot of skipping pompano.

Capt. Rick Gross of the charter boat Fishy Business at Catchers said he has been fishing in Terra Ceia Bay for pompano, ladyfish and speckled trout. “But the big thing was going for pompano,” Gross said. He’s still using Doc’s jigs for some nice pompano catches, mostly in deep-water passes and cuts by Longboat Pass. “It’s almost like you’re fishing for trout except instead of fishing the grass, you’re fishing sand,” he said. He recommended fish the edges of the sandy bottom. Gross said grouper action also has been excellent over artificial reefs in the bay and off the beaches. “There was a big goliath grouper going back and forth along the pier,” Gross said.

Mark Johnston of Legend Fishing Charters out of Annie’s Bait & Tackle said it is unbelievable, but there are some big grouper in the bays. “Who knows the reason,” he said. “There’s even been keeper red grouper in the bay, which is unheard of.” Johnston said find any ledge in the bay, use big tackle and drop a big grunt or pinfish and wait for the catch.

Capt. Ray Markham of Backwater Promotions on Terra Ceia has been catching snook, trout, redfish, flounder, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, black seabass and gag grouper, all on C.A.L. shads in Terra Ceia Bay and over some of the hard-bottom areas of lower Tampa Bay.

Capt. Warren Girle reports seeing two schools of around 100 redfish each in north Sarasota Bay on Nov. 21. One group had reds between 25-26 inches and the other were 28-32 inches. He was targeting the reds along with trout on deep grass flats, and also saw flounder to 18 inches.

Girle said that on Nov. 19 he was within 500 yards of the beach, fishing a natural artificial reef, when he jumped two tarpon. He was fishing with shiners for Spanish mackerel. One silver king of 80 pounds was fought for one hour and 10 minutes, and the other hookup was around 100 pounds.

“Those tarpon should have been gone three months ago,” Girle said.

He also landed four cobia, two keeper grouper and some mangrove snapper in the same area.

Send your fishing news and photos to fish@islander.org.

Send fishing reports and photos to fish@islander.org.

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